Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What if you saw it coming?

There is some very serious anxiety about the rise of ultra-populist parties in Greece and France. When coupled with the %50 unemployment rate for Spanish and Greek youth, with another %30 to %40 in Spain and Portugal, and uncertainty about the established political order of western dominance, it would seem irrational not to consider that the clouds are gathering.

European parliament member Nigel Farage makes some very bold statements about these concerns in the video below. Notably, that Europe may face another rise of "national socialism." ...

"We face the prospect of mass social unrest..."

However, as alarming as this sounds, a quick youtube search indicates that it's really neither here nor there. He just always talks like this:

Of course he is right, and was right in 2010, but being right is too often second prize. He gets to be right in the long run, and the people squirming in their seats will remain in them long after he has been discredited and dispatched. That's politics.

Invoking WWII is a bit dramatic, and it has been used by such idiots over the last 60 years, that comparing any circumstance to that of Germany in the 1930's almost always means the person is either mentally ill, or at least has a discreditable view of the present.

Every generation has their apocalyptic myth. It was the end of days, flu pandemics, nuclear war, flood from polar ice caps melting, the technological Y2K civil collapse, the end of the 2000 year Mayan Calendar. None of these have come to pass (knock on wood for the last one, DV.)

And yet, one can't help but ask, what if you saw it coming?

There is a whole society of survivalist types who are like right-wing hippies who grow their own food and hoard ammunition in fear of a state clampdown. But theirs is a self-fulfilling prophecy. In the event of civil unrest, they will be on the list of threats to be mitigated by defense forces. In Canada, they already are, it's called the gun registry.  The far more probable tactic will be for a government to confiscate weapons and gold. Compared to the likelihood of a government declaration that citizens are free to use gold and guns for survival, it's kind of obvious.  What these people don't get is: For a government to declare "every man for himself" is an abdication of power, which is so not going to happen. Anywhere. Ever.

If it all did happen as Farage suggests,  if the SHTF in the jargon, Europe is relatively small, and there are lots nearby places worth escaping to instead of hunkering down for a siege. Arguably, Canada stands to benefit most from economic collapse in Europe, since it has benefited from collapse in the past there, and elsewhere in the world.

When economies collapse, the best ones leave. North America is still the New World, so they come here. In a crisis, Canada gets the doctors, engineers, scientists, and officials who have the sense to pick up stakes and take their family somewhere safe. The U.S. gets the entrepreneurs and wealthy. Not to underestimate or diminish the tremendous sacrifices people made to get here, but it is worth noting that Canada has always been the beneficiary of political displacements. As a result of the Iranian revolution in the 1970s, Canada got a total A-list of Persian immigrants. When Hong Kong reverted to Chinese rule in the 1990s, most of the smart money moved to Vancouver  and Toronto.   Much of Montreal's Jewish community is from WWII diaspora. Prior waves of immigration from Italy and Ireland at the turn of the 20th century were of the entrepreneurial people with the gumption and wherewithal to leave their villages. Post 1989, the criminal classes of Eastern Europe stayed home to become oligarchs, while the professional classes appeared to emigrate to Canada and the US. The policy focus on taking refugees throughout the 80's and 90's seemed to tip the scale in favour of people in the worst possible circumstances, but there is a renewed focus on attracting people who are in a position to build businesses.

  Nobody could have predicted the horrors of WWI or WWII. Even the survivors of WWI did not anticipate the eventual brutality of Hitler, or even yet that of Stalin. Of course we would never let that happen again. Yet we can expect that if there is war, it will be something completely different, and perhaps no less horrific, all in a new and terrifying way. Instability in Greece will affect stability in the region,  and not a mere few nearby countries have violence in recent memory.

So, if Mr. Farage is correct that we stand at the economic equivalent of 1932, if you could go back to a time where you saw the clouds of war gathering over Europe, what would you have done?

Which rather begs the question of, what could you have done?

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